Wound VAC Therapy

provided by CROW

In wildlife medicine, every patient presents a unique challenge for veterinarians. Not only can the patients not describe what is ailing them, but often times, injuries to different species require specialized techniques to help them heal. When it comes to shell injuries in tortoises and sea turtle, one special tool is called a wound VAC.

Negative Pressure Wound Therapy (NPWT), or vacuum-assisted closure (VAC), is a type of wound management utilized in both human and animal medicine. It is typically used in wounds that cannot be primarily closed surgically, to aid in tissue healing. Special bandaging, which includes foam, suction tubing, and a thin layer of adherent plastic, is applied to the affected area and attached to a mechanical suction unit that maintains a certain pressure of suction.

This negative pressure environment helps fight infection and stimulates faster healing through the promotion of improved blood flow to the area and stimulating the formation of granulation tissue. In some cases, a topical such as medical grade Manuka honey or an antibiotic-impregnated gel, like silver colloid gel, can be incorporated into the dressing as well. This type of bandage can be water-proofed with a silicone sealant so that animals that live in an aquatic environment, such as sea turtles or pond turtles, can heal in their appropriate living conditions.

At the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), this technique is currently being utilized for a green sea turtle admitted to the hospital with wounds sustained in what was believed to be a shark attack. There is a large fracture to the carapace (upper shell) which extended into the turtle’s body cavity and damaging the lungs.

“Surgery was performed to reduce or close the fracture as much as possible, however there is still a gap of missing bone/shell – this is where the wound vac can make a big difference,” says Dr. Robin Bast, CROW’s staff veterinarian. “The negative pressure will help draw any unwanted liquid out of the wound and will pull the coelomic membrane that lines the body cavity up and allow it to close and re-adhere to the shell. We use this type of bandaging in conjunction with systemic antibiotic therapy to treat infection.”

The wound vac bandage is changed on average every three days and significantly reduces the amount of healing time compared to a wound that is left to heal in naturally on its own.

“We started with honey as the topical, and have recently switched to a topical silver gel for this turtle,” she says. “We are currently housing the turtle in a shallow pool indoors and as the wound progresses in healing, it will be moved to a deeper pool for further rehabilitation.”

THIS WEEK AT CROW (10/28-11/3):
There were 76 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including ten double-crested cormorants, seven red-shouldered hawks, two brown pelicans, a black vulture, a green heron, a peninsula cooter and a red-eyed vireo. Recent Releases include a clapper rail, a black racer, a pied-billed grebe and a royal tern. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases! Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year! Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

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